Poker, poker, poker – I love poker! It is my favorite game to play with family, friends, and strangers. I love all sorts of games, but I have a strong passion for poker. It’s in my blood; I come from a family of card-playing action lovers. In this post, I will tell you how amazing it was to discover the new poker rooms in Vietnam and how each room differs.
To give you a sense of my knowledge on the subject, Here are a few facts:
- I was certified as a poker dealer in Las Vegas when I lived there for 14 months in the mid ‘00’s. (Though I never dealt in an actual casino)
- I’ve cashed in a World Series of Poker event. Finishing 138 out of 2,315
- I won my way to the PartyPoker.com Million Cruise where I played with the top players in the world and took out actor James Woods in the tourney – you can see me sitting next to Woods at the 1:16 mark of the World Poker Tour Episode in my then long hair, white hat, and stoic focus 😉
- I’ve gambled on 5 continents
- I might have a tattoo or two that represent my love for cards
Da Nang, Vietnam
Okay, so here we are in Da Nang, Vietnam enjoying the beauty of the waves and strolling the walkways along the coast when I spot a Win Poker sign. Now, poker has its different forms of translation around the world. In my world, it represents you playing against other players with a dealer, but the casinos like to call it poker when you are playing against them (the house) sometimes. That’s not poker. That’s pure gambling. Poker is a game of skill, and I like to test my skill against the other players. That is what I am looking for when I see poker signs. I had to see which version of poker it was…
The Win Poker Room in Da Nang, Vietnam is on the 15th floor of the Holiday Beach Hotel and Spa. This beautiful hotel is just steps from the ocean. The team in the lobby was very helpful in guiding us up to the floor to check it out. As the elevator doors opened, we were greeted by a cheerful host who spoke broken English but did a great job in giving me all of the handout information that detailed the games, and she connected me to her bilingual coworker who explained it all very well. Investigating the room, I found that it was very well organized, clean, and built for growth.
It was a true poker room. The players were playing in tournaments only which I found odd. I would later find out that it was how the casino licensing works in Vietnam – cash game rooms or tournament rooms, but not both in the same room. With tournaments being a potentially significant time commitment, I decided not to play during our three days in Da Nang but would recommend it based on what I saw and would later find out from my conversations with a professional player in Nha Trang.
The Win Poker Room has big tournaments that they list on their Facebook Page.
Nha Trang, Vietnam
A week or so later we were in Nha Trang, Vietnam – another beautiful coastal city that is a common tourist destination in the region. Similar to Da Nang with the fun nightlife, tasty food selection, and friendly hospitality but with one big difference – there was a CASH room poker game. We just happened to book our Airbnb (see the gorgeous view from our 41st floor) in the apartments that connect to the Mường Thanh Luxury Hotel where the Nha Trang Poker Room is part of the mini casino they offer there.
You walk through a security metal detector, they check your ID, and then you are free to play the electronic roulette/ blackjack tables or slot machines. The bartenders are ready to serve you at the bar while you play. Like all of Vietnam, the hospitality is very personal and eager to please.
The small poker room with one table is like walking into your buddy’s basement and rounding up your friends to play a Saturday night game. It is clean, comfortable, and organized. The dealers are extremely knowledgeable and run the game very well. I was impressed how they handled a couple of tough situations – players taking too long to decide on bets and a drunk guy from Europe that wouldn’t shut up.
They kept the games moving fast and the action continuous. The manager in the room was excellent at making sure the players were comfortable by offering free beer, presenting food options, or getting more playing chips.
While I was there, they offered $1/2 and $2/5 No Limit Hold Em on different nights. I did hear that they had an Omaha game a few nights before. The game started around 8:00 or 9:00 pm each night but that changes in demand. They accepted US dollars and paid out in USD if you wanted as well. They took a typical rake from the hands played.
The banter at the table was mostly in Vietnamese which is expected, but it can be a tad lonely over a few hours. That said, there was a professional player there that spoke good English, and I had great conversations with him. He educated me on how the Vietnam poker rooms operated and translated for me throughout the night.
Yes, there seemed to be 4-5 players that played there often which can be a turnoff because they know each other’s playing styles but you get the same thing in any good poker room around the world. That said, the action on the night I played was pretty wild. Big hands, very often. Tons of raising, re-raising with junk hands. It was a dream table with a few high rollers, but you have to come with pockets of money which I didn’t have. So I sat, waited, and played minimal hands but I had a blast. I even witnessed a nutty hand that ended with a royal flush!
From what I saw on the Nha Trang Poker Room Facebook Page, they continue to add in new games so check that out if you plan on visiting. I highly recommend this poker room if you vacation in this beautiful city.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A week later we wrapped up our awesome month in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. From the tip of my Nha Trang professional buddy, I looked into the poker room in Ho Chi Minh because it offered good tournaments. I found that the Pro Poker Club was only about a 40-minute walk (12-minute drive) from our District 1 apartment. During the time we were there, I was lucky enough to find that they had one of their bigger multi-day events happening.
I decided I would test my luck in the Micro Million tournament with the 1.2 Million Dong buy-in. Now, this is one of the cooler things about playing in Vietnam, the potential payouts can be nine figures! With the current exchange rate being 22,675 Dong to 1 USD, it can be pretty funny to think about the massive payouts.
The Pro Poker Club is in a box looking building with frosted windows and thick red border. There is plenty of parking out front for cars and scooters. When you walk in, the bar area is immediately on the right side with bartenders and staff ready to serve. There are several couches in this room, and I believe it is a smoking area. The check-in manager was at the podium ready to get my cash for a players card.
Yes, this sucks to have to pay the fee for a membership that I only needed for a day or two, but those are the rules, and I planned on winning this tournament 😉 After getting through this process (be sure to have your passport), I entered the big poker room which looked like a Las Vegas-style room but newer and cleaner than some I have played there.
Buying into the tournament was an easy process. The cage cashiers took the payment and gave out a typical buy-in receipt. I did have to pay an extra fee that went towards Tip Coins which I thought was unfair. The coins are guaranteed food/beverage credits you pay with the coins each valued at 50,000 Dong.
You can decide to buy off of their menu or tip the dealers with the coins. The food menu was deeper than I expected and the drinks were fun and lavish. Much more expensive than typical Vietnamese food you find walking the streets but outstanding quality.
This particular tournament ran pretty fast with the 20-minute blinds. It was extremely well organized with the floor managers moving players to fill empty seats as new tables filled and broke. The all-female dealer crew was experienced and knowledgeable. They were great at separating pots in those all-in moments with multiple players. I am not sure why all the dealers were female, but that was all that I saw while playing in Da Nang and HCMC.
As the tournament played on and the field shrunk, it got louder and louder. The emotion that came with the all-in action was exciting and fun. I thought I was going to be able to make a run with two tables left but ran into pocket Aces and sadly exited the tournament. I decided to drown my sorrows in a coffee mocha smoothie with a couple of tip coins.
The Pro Poker Club in Ho Chi Minh has a ton of games of all values running daily – check out their Facebook Page for the latest details. They posted a few photos of me from the event that I posted here. Ho Chi Minh is a world-class city that is worth visiting and, if you have enough time on your visit, go check out this poker room if you enjoy tournament style poker.
Wrapping up, the gambling climate in Vietnam seems to be in a transition so the rules of each room could change rapidly. I believe all three of these poker rooms opened in 2017 so they will continue to learn and improve. That said, I think they already have a great handle on how to treat their guests to feel welcome even if the cards don’t run their way. I was told that, as of the time we were visiting, there are only four legal poker rooms in the whole country and I visited three of them. Lucky me!
Best of luck in your adventures!
Traveled December 2017